Bring Back Bobby V

In a recent BBTN (Baseball Tonight) segment, John Kruk and Harold Reynolds were asked to rate the five contending teams in the NL Wild Card race on pitching, defense and offense. Kruk rated the Marlins and Padres above the Cubs for pitching, officially making him the stupidest man ever on the program, edging out both Ken Caminiti (I'm assuming he's been interviewed at least once) and Jose Canseco.

If the Marlins had kept Penny, and that's a big if, I might consider them for second on the list. However, trading him took a formidible chunk out of their rotation. Willis is at 9-9 with an ERA just points below 4, Beckett is 6-8 with a 4.05 ERA, and while Ismael Valdez is 12-7, his ERA is 5.23. Carl Pavano is carrying this rotation at 16-5 and 3.09. That is the ninth best ERA in the NL, but he's #23 for strikeouts, behind Willis. More on Valdez, he does not have a winning record for his carreer and has been wildly inconsistent since his first four years as a Dodger. His K/9 has declined steadily since 2000 from 6.22 all the way down to 3.13. Furthermore, Willis' brilliant K/9 ratio from his debut year is down to 6.45, and he is no longer holding opposing batters to a .245 BA, possibly because hitters have figured out his bizarre mechanics. They now hit him at a .276 clip. If I had to guess as to what was wrong, it was that batters have imporved at hitting him out of the stretch(.266 with the bases empty and .292 with men on), eliminating the advantage of his 'elbows and knees' delivery. Beckett's numbers look eeriely similar to his 2003 stats, with the only difference being a 60 point jump in his SLG. Valdez's stats look about like one would think with his record and ERA, as is the case with Pavano. This does not look like a very healthy rotation to me; it looks like an ace and three number three or four starters, or maybe some young pitchers trying to figure it out.

The Padres are an interesting choice for second best rotation. Adam Eaton is the only one with a losing record at 9-12, 4.71 ERA. Both Brian Lawrence (13-11, 3.82) and David Wells (9-7, 3.49) have midling records. Only Jake Peavy stands out at 11-4 and a 2.21 ERA. The problem with Peavy is that he's untested, not even having reached 100 innings last year in the show. His K/9 has been going down since he came into professional baseball (which is to be roughly expected when he started above 12) but dropped from 8.29 to 7.21, although his WHIP improved marginally. Batters are hitting .282 against Lawrence, way up from last year (.258) and they are slugging .460 off him, a fifty point jump over last year. In contrast, Peavy's numbers are .235 and .352. Wells has actually improved his K/BB by two full points since 2001, but but K/9 has been dropping steadily since '98. I don't think I have to even bother with Sabermetric numbers for Eaton, sometimes ERA and W-L record are pretty honest about a pitcher. The only one that seems to hold any hope for him is that his K/9 has stayed fairly high, above 6.75 for his carreer. Still no one in that rotation scares me but Peavy who is 6-0 since the All Star break and who gets tougher with runners on and tougher still when they're in scoring position (.245 empty, .220 men on, .189 scoring position). After the break, batters agaisnt Wells are hitting .301. Before it was .244. His offense has bolstered his win total, giving him a record since the break of 5-2 while his ERA has climbed over a full point. This seems to be the same story with the Marlins.

I will admit before I start in on the evaulation of the Cubs that I am rather partial to them. That being said, here goes.

Kerry Wood, (7-6, 3.30) Mark Prior, (4-4, 4.87) Matt Clement, (9-12, 3.44) Greg Maddux, (13-8, 3.70) and Carlos Zambrano (12-8, 2.94) are the best rotation in the National League. Period. Zambrano's carreer K/9 (in two and and half seasons) is 7.59, AVGAgainst (or AVGA from now on) is .234, sucked even further down by is almost Mendoza-esque .222 this season so far. By the way, that is the only time in the history of baseball that Mendoza has been used as a compliment. Clement's K/9 has gone up from last season, to 9.48. His ERA has gone down, from 4.11 to 3.44. His AVGA is identical at .227. I have no explanation for his record, except that the Cubs offense has not picked up its pitchers this year. Wood's K/9 remains over nine for the year and his AVGA is at .230. Prior still has an astronomical K/9, 10.62 (10.71 for three seasons), although his AVGA and SLGA has jumped by a lot, due mainly to his injury begning the season and the one that took him out of a game on July 15th. I'll finish with the elder statesman of the group, a man who came home to end his carreer, the most dependable pitcher for the last fifteen years. You have to go back to 1988 to find a year he had a losing record, or a season in which he won less than fifteen games. His K/9 is solidly at 6.27 and AVGA is .245 for the last ninteen years. There was an article on ESPN.com awhile back that talked about just how good Maddux has been, especially compared to his contemporaries.

Coming into this season, according to Lee Sinins' Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia, the average National League pitcher during Maddux's career (1986-present) had an ERA of 4.24. Maddux's career ERA, on the other hand, looked a little different than that:

At a fabulous 2.89.

You might not be surprised to learn that's the greatest difference in ERA by any 300-game winner in modern history (after 1900), compared to his league ERA...

Maddux also has the biggest difference, compared to his league, in baserunners per nine innings (2.39 better than his league) and walks per nine innings (1.51 better). And he's second only to Christy Mathewson in strikeout-walk ratio (1.49 better). So this just in: This guy can really pitch...

What has also defined this man is that he's one of the great control artists of his time -- or any time. He once ripped off nine straight seasons with a walk ratio lower than 2.00 per nine innings. And only three pitchers in history ever had a longer streak. [one of which was Cy Young]...

Only five 300-game winners in history have had a higher career winning percentage than Maddux (.638). And, not coincidentally, only three had more seasons in which they won at least 10 more games than they lost. Maddux has had eight seasons like that.


1. Lefty Grove .680
2. Christy Mathewson .665
3. Roger Clemens .664
4. John Clarkson .650
5. Grover C Alexander .642
6. Greg Maddux .638


12 Christy Mathewson
11 Cy Young
9 Grover Alexander
8 Greg Maddux
8 Kid Nichols
8 Walter Johnson
8 Lefty Grove

Furthermore, all of these pitchers are horses, pushing or passing 200 innings with regularity. How anyone could not rate this as the best rotation in the NL Wild Card race, the NL, or even the Major Leagues is beyond me. The only rotation even close is Oakland.

At least Krukmeister (for as dumb as his choices were) and I can agree on one thing, the Giants rotation is dead last among contenders. Honestly, let the mascot pitch. He couldn't do much worse that Reuter.

Currently listening to the A's on MLB.com and Swisher is 1-1 in his first three at bats with two walks (what a Moneyballer) and a double. That's nothing but good news, unless you're Ted Lilly.

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